Your Shot: How Strongbow Are Bringing Nature to the City
Cider brand Strongbow is embracing the inspirational power of nature in this year’s big global push. While it launches with a whimsical Fredrik Bond-directed film that uses fantastical visual effects to bring an outsized urban jungle to Mexico City, the brand is also keen that city dwellers get a chance to experience nature for real – that’s why they’re also launching a real floating orchard in the middle of New York City.
The campaign is a follow on from last year’s ‘Nature Remix’ project that saw the brand plant an orchard in central Johannesburg – and in order to push things even further this year, agency Cloudfactory teamed up with nature artists Mary Mattingly and Mr. Plant. Mary is the visionary behind New York’s ‘floating food forest’ Swale (a garden on the sort of steel barge you’d normally see heaving trash), and Parisian Mr. Plant (Christophe Guinet) uses nature to transform objects and tools.
For the brand team at Strongbow, it was important to build on the themes of nature that were established in the 2016 campaign whilst taking the idea to more playful places. Jiri Rakosnik, Global Marketing Manager Cider at Heineken (which owns the brand) explains that while Strongbow is well known in the UK, at a global level it’s still putting down roots.
“Strongbow is still a very young brand in most of its markets. The brief was to further embed the Nature Remix campaign into consumers’ minds to build differentiation. We have only started last year with the launch of our Nature Remix campaign, so building consistency is key,” he says.
“The story is the same – we remix nature back into the city. And whether it’s a big apple tree or a more playful orchard, we offer uplifting natural refreshment and the belief that nature gives us optimism and joyful energy. We wanted to keep telling the story of how much more fun and rewarding the city would be if there was more nature in it.”
For Sandrine Huijgen, Creative Partner at Cloudfactory, the challenge was to nurture the seedlings planted last year and aim for ‘bigger and brighter ideas’. The key insight at the core of the campaign is that people are actively trying to bring nature back to cities – something that would connect with the sought after millennial audience that they’re trying to turn on to cider while also giving the brand a purpose and emotional heart.
But it was important that the campaign did more than put out pleasant but greenwash-y messaging. Action was key. “The trend toward nature is coupled with Cloudfactory and Strongbow’s commitment to story-doing, or acting upon something rather than just talking about it,” explains Sandrine. “We can talk about improving our surroundings, making cities greener and more enjoyable, or we can roll up our sleeves and actually plant an orchard that has a real and permanent impact for a city and its inhabitants.”
And that’s where Mary Mattingly and Mr Plant come in. Cloudfactory came across their work while researching the campaign and knew that mixing up their different styles and approaches would lead to a real creative blossoming. “We immediately loved their work, and when we met in person, we loved their collaborative spirit and boundless creative energy,” says Sandrine.
“Mr. Plant brought us inspiration in the way he turns urban iconic objects such as sneakers, skateboards and iMacs into nature art. Mary inspired us because she had the idea of bringing fresh food to New Yorkers on a barge,” she continues. “Both of these artists have little means and big dreams, but they do what they can to make them happen. We love that Strongbow has embraced our idea to collaborate with them and give their dreams a bigger scale.”
Mary’s floating garden Swale was opened last year, as a response to the fact that foraging for food in New York’s public spaces was illegal – she wanted to create a space where people could grow and gather food. Having grown up in a farming community outside NYC, Mary is passionate about the importance of understanding and connecting with the sources of our food and water. And since raising money via Kickstarter, over 60,000 visitors have been to check it out. She met the approach from Strongbow and Cloudfactory with excitement.
“At Swale we were looking for potential ways to keep Swale going next year, and learning more about Strongbow's Nature Remix initiative, I knew that the project couldn't have been more in line with our visions for conservation of nature and public access to healthy fresh food,” says Mary.
The challenge of creating the orchard was no small feat. “Cloudfactory urged me to reimagine Swale as an idealised landscape. To begin, this was an engineering challenge so I consulted with Swale's collaborators including Rik van Hemmen, a naval engineer and a structural engineer from NYC Parks, as well as people who maintain orchards like Alan Haigh and permaculturalists on Swale including Marisa Prefer. With Cloudfactory, we worked between idealised versions of a barge-based orchard and the challenges that go with creating something like that.
Mr. Plant, meanwhile, is motivated by exploring the interplay of nature and civilisation, using greenery to elevate the most mundane object – an idea that really comes to life in the overarching campaign.
“Since my teenage years, I’ve been fascinated by the worlds of vegetation and urban cultures. In this world that is driven by consumption and acquiring non-essential things, I take time to cultivate plants, get to know them and give them a rare place: as high art in the urban space,” he says.
As someone who has been nurturing Strongbow’s growth among a global audience, it was particularly inspiring for Jiri to see the brand’s values brought to life. “[It was] rewarding and fulfilling. Seeing them living our brand’s purpose and helping to make it happen feels really good. The people Strongbow is talking to are dreamers and doers, they want to change the world with their talent and within the realm of their influence and so do we. It feels both natural and exciting.”
The New York orchard will be open to the public in early May, and that physical experience is intertwined with the launch film. Artists Mary and Mr. Plant have even been cast as stars in the ad, which makes the campaign a true collaboration between them, Cloudfactory, as well as production company Sonny London, director Fredrik Bond and the wizards at The Mill in Los Angeles.
“The Imagine film and physical orchard are closely related because the film is a journey through the streets of a big city where Mary and Mr. Plant are living their dream — bringing nature to the city, passing everyday objects that have a natural twist and experiencing the wonderful rejuvenating energy this has on urban crowds,” explains Sandrine. “The Swale element, the actual planting of the orchard on the barge in New York City, is the realisation of that dream. It’s important to bring the fantasy to reality because the real and concrete action of bringing green to cities has a lasting positive impact. It’s all about acting more and talking less!”
For the film, Fredrik Bond was the ideal candidate for director. He shot last year’s Nature Remix film and the Cloudfactory team knew he was passionate about the project and could create a whimsical new world that was rooted in authenticity. And Mexico City was the perfect location as it represented the sort of huge city where nature could make a real difference.
Visually, it was important that the film captured the hazy glow of a summer afternoon, something that DOP Hoyte Van Hoytema and colourist Adam Scott have depicted rather beautifully. But that’s not a purely aesthetic choice – it’s also a clever strategic decision. “It’s really the golden hour that we are trying to portray. The accessible qualities of our drink made it a great choice for that moment of transition between the ‘work me’ and the ‘real me,’ those easy going moments when you can slip off your shoes and feel the grass with your bare feet and meet your friends and have a good laugh. This is the drink you reach for to refresh yourself, both physically and mentally,” says Jiri.
The Fruits of Collaboration
For now, the team are gearing up for the opening of the orchard on the Swale barge, but the launch film is already giving global audiences a refreshing taste of summer. And speaking to the various players involved, it’s clear that chance to bring such unexpected talents together has been an invigorating experience.
“Working on these projects has been a fantastic experience for me, and I have very good memories of this collaboration,” says Mr. Plant. “I met extraordinary people, and the fact of having an actor role in the film is a first that I really enjoyed!”
Mary too has been inspired by everyone she has met and worked with on the project. “Meeting people involved in the campaign that really want to see a different world – one that is based in a love of and respect for nature. This love has moved them to devise larger strategies to halt environmental degradation and to en¬courage a movement towards a culture of care.”
And for Jiri, the project has been a rather unique one in his career as a marketer. “[My personal highlight was] bringing the dream to life. For the movie it was the unique mix of magic of the real nature art of Mr. Plant together with the CGI artists from The Mill, and for the real act of bringing a floating urban orchard to the city, and the creation of the orchard itself. You don’t have the opportunity every day to park a huge orchard in a floating barge in front of the financial capital of the world and help planting trees!”
Marketing Director: (Global) Jiri Rakosnik
Global Brand Director: (Cider) Sharon Walsh
Marketing Manager: Camille Richarson, Laura Dzino
Creative Agency: Cloudfactory, Amsterdam
Producer: Lars Fabery De Jonge
Creative Partner: Sandrine Huijgen, Jessica Kersten
Account Management: Steven Beukers, Olivia Koning
Managing Partner: Sandeep Chawla
Production Company: Sonny London
Executive Producer: Helen Kenny
Director: Fredrik Bond
DOP: Hoyte Van Hoytema
Line Producer: Alicia Richards
Art Director : Elliott Hostetter
Production Service Company: Kinema Films Mexico
Executive Producer: Jose Ludlow
Edit Company: Marshall Street Editors, London
Editor: Patric Ryan
Post Production / VFX
Post Production Company: The Mill - Los Angeles
Colourist: Adam Scott
Producer: Alex Bader
VFX: David Lawson & Becky Porter
Music Supervision: Sebastian Roestenburg & Ed Meijaard
Recording: Davina Sowers
Song: ‘It’s Oh So Quiet” (Hans Lang / Bert Reisfeld)
Sound Design: Ambassadors Sound - Amsterdam
Category: Alcoholic drinks , Cider